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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Human Rights Commission receives complaints against UP, Afriforum

On 13 October, a complaint was lodged with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) detailing several issues surrounding racism and inequality at UP. The complaint was lodged against UP, as well as “certain actions” of civil rights organisation group Afriforum, by Quraysha Ismail Sooliman, a PhD candidate at UP’s Faculty of Law. SAHRC’s spokesperson Gail Smith confirmed that it had received a complaint against UP, although no further details had been given. “The matter is at the assessment stage and we are unable to comment further at this time,” added Smith.
Sooliman confirmed that she had submitted a formal complaint to the SAHRC. Sooliman said that the complaint related specifically to the “white Afrikaner security personnel (most of whom are old enough to be here from the days of apartheid, hence are schooled in the subversive logic of apartheid).” She added that private security were directed to target, intimidate and catch every protesting student and that this coincided with the “targeted arrests of Rassie, Naledi and Amla.” She added, “I personally have found the attitude of the management and the VC nothing short of arrogant. These are old people living in an ivory tower and they are totally out of touch with the reality on the ground. They know nothing about the changing dynamics in the political and social structures, about the intelligence and articulation of the youth and about the new and very powerful movement resolved to assert their humanity,” said Sooliman.

She added that the situation at UP was similar to what SRC interim chairperson Thabo Shingange had tweeted saying “white people are lucky that we are asking for equality and not revenge.”

Further to this, Sooliman said that Vice- Chancellor and Principal Prof. Cheryl De la Rey was given a detailed explanation of each complaint which was accompanied by photographic evidence and screenshots of video footage.

Sooliman said that after Prof. De la Rey had not responded to her by the requested date, and had given her a further 10 days to respond thereafter, she had escalated the issue to the SAHRC for investigation into the “lack of transformation and various issues related to racism, discrimination and prejudice [at UP].”
“It is sad, however, that institutions inside the university that deal with diversity, human rights, tolerance, peace, etc., have failed to come out and condemn the militarisation of the campus and they have also failed, together with the management in calling for constructive engagement. There is a huge problem with the mentality of academics reluctant to embrace the changes and the realisation that in many ways the students know more than themselves. Thus, many of them now suffer from cognitive dissonance and find comfort in fear mongering about things they don’t know, rather than to go out and seek to learn,” said Sooliman.
According to the SAHRC, it would first asses whether the complaint fell within its mandate or whether it should be dealt with by another organisation or institution.
According to UP spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer, UP has not been notified of any such complaint by the SAHRC. “So far we have not received any formal notification from the SAHRC, and as such we cannot confirm it or comment on the matter,” said Bouwer.

According to Afriforum Youth Tukkies branch spokesperson Henrico Barnard, Afriforum have also not been formally notified of the complaint to the SAHRC.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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